What are the most common mistakes you see candidates make during an interview for a product marketing position?
The biggest mistake I see candidates making is that they do not spend time learning about the product and the space it operates in.
My recommendation is that you spend time on the website and learn some basics about the product and it's practitioners (personas), identify the newest features released, and find out if the product operates in a category that Gartner or Forrester tracks to see where it stands in the market.
Doing this research will help you develop context for the space the product operates in, show that you are proactive in learning about new things and establish a POV for how “you” can help this product scale.
1. They didn't prepare. It's really hard to justify moving a candidate forward if they don't know basic details about our company, their answers lack details and depth, and/or they don't have questions for the interviewer.
2. They are too long-winded or rambling, and/or their answers are mostly jargon. Of course we want to hear candidates reference terms we use in our day-to-day work. But if all their answers are more buzzwords than substance, or if they struggle to communicate in a concise and clear way, we have to pass. So much of product marketing success is about effective communication — with customers and prospects, as well as people across the company — so I give this a lot of weight.
3. They can't effectively connect with cross-functional partners on the panel. We make sure our panels have key partners from the cross-functional teams they'd work closely with. Sometimes we see candidates struggle to build rapport or have productive conversations with those interviewers, which can indicate they may not have enough experience working with those teams. (It also doesn't make those key stakeholders super excited to partner with that person.) Less common but even more concerning: we sometimes see people who, in trying to talk about their experience working with that function, inadvertently disparage that function. (For example, throwing their current product team under the bus is always concerning, but especially when talking to a PM.) That's a big red flag.
They know very little about our market, product, and competitors, and haven't really made an effort to learn.
One way to stand out in the interview process is to show that you have a solid understanding of what the company does. If you can confidently speak about their competitors, talk about their product, show you understand their market, you will impress them. They'll have confidence in your ability to hit the ground running, and you'll show you took the initiative to learn about their space.
When I can tell that a candidate knows little about what we do, I:
- Worry about how long it'll take for them to start executing
- Feel like they don't care enough or have the common sense to prepare for the interview
Interviewees often forget to convey their knowledge about their customers. Many candidates focus exclusively on the outputs and not on the inputs. It would be best if you talked about your results and product outcomes but also articulated the why. Who was the customer? What were their unmet needs?
I'm a huge fan of shorter, concise resumes. If you can articulate your journey and experience on one page, it will help me to process your resume well. Some red flags I've observed:
- Typos/grammatical errors on resumes - Attention to detail is a core skill for a PMM, so it is a big turn-off for me if your resume has these errors.
- Lack of customer narrative - Customer conversations are integral to a PMM role, so if it's not mentioned in during the interview that's a red flag for me.
- Run-on sentences - As a PMM, you are expected to have clear, concise communication -- verbal and written.
- Too much fluff - When stating your experience, be real and practical. Don't exaggerate it too much or make it super jargon-y that its difficult to follow.
In general, I think the most common mistakes fall under the category of not being properly prepared. However, here are a few examples that come to mind when I think about interviews that could have gone better.
- Not familiar with our product/service
- Talk about wanting to join the company because of the trajectory of the company (versus being excited about the product, mission, etc)
- Talk poorly of their previous employers
- Not ask any questions
- Not able to provide clear examples of previous work and impact
Interviews are always a nervous process for candidates, so I always try to be more empathetic and put myself in the candidate's shoes. I try to be more tolerant of the fact that candidates are under the stress. However, some mistakes can be avoided:
1. Not having your story tailored to the job requirements: no need to tell about all your job achievements from every company. Focus on what's needed for this role.
2. Not having your homework done: the less you know about the company, the less you are motivated to be part of our team.
3. Not having practical use-cases prepared: "give me an example of how you did [xyz]" is such a typical question to showcase how candidates do the actual job. Very often these questions make candidates think and come up with answers on the fly, while it could be really prepared.
4. Being too fuzzy: smart terms, not clear answers, repeating the same story over and over. Those things are better to avoid.